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How to Teach Kids to Embrace Peers with Special Needs

by on 01/06/2022 2384

At some point children will come across another child with special needs. It’s important that kids know how to accept their peers despite their differences, as being able to get along with one another benefits everyone.

Here are ideas on how to teach kids to embrace people with disabilities.

1. Talk About How People Can Be Different

Children need to know that we all have our differences— each of us possessing unique challenges and strengths. First and foremost, we’re all still people, with various characteristics that make up who we are. A disability doesn’t define us.

Explain to children that peers with special needs might take a longer time to do some things.

Sometimes they may need extra help or special technology.

Tell children that not all kinds of special needs can be easily seen, and they can’t ‘catch’ a disability from someone. Try and use simple, relatable words when you are talking to children about the topic.

Remember to set a safe space for them to ask questions and be curious about special needs.

2. Expose Children to Material That Discusses Diversity

A great way to get children to learn about disabilities is through educational material that discusses the topic — in a child-friendly, uncomplicated fashion.

Sesame Street, for example, has episodes that highlight children with special needs. They even introduced a young Muppet named Julia, who has autism.

There are also a number of children’s books that touch on diversity, such as the celebrated watercolour-illustrated book Special People, Special Ways by Arlene Maguire and Sheila Bailey.

3. Set an Example

It’s widely known that children learn a lot from observing others. As adults, children are watching us for clues on how to behave in different situations.

Be a role model to children by setting the right example. Show warmth and empathy to people with special needs, and talk to parents who have kids with disabilities. Get to know them, their challenges and how you can help encourage inclusion.

4. Explain to Children That Everyone Likes Having Friends

We may have our differences, but people are also similar in some fundamental ways. Remind children that every child likes feeling included and appreciated. This is why making friends is a wonderful way to celebrate and support one another.

You could suggest ways for children to make friends with peers who have special needs. Encourage children to approach them and get to know them better. For example, if a classmate speaks with sign language, why not try and teach children how to sign a few useful words?

Most importantly, teach children patience. Learning to communicate well with someone who has special needs can take some time, as it requires understanding the individual better and recognizing that each person may do things at their own pace.